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Here’s what to expect when Pinellas County beaches open Monday

Margie Manning

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Photo credit: Visit St. Pete Clearwater

Visitors will be greeted by deputies and caution signs when Pinellas County reopens its beaches on Monday morning at 7 a.m.

The deputies and signs will remind beach-goers to limit their groups to no more than 10 people and for groups to stay six feet apart — social distancing measures to control the spread of Covid-19.

“We’re going to have an unprecedented number of officers to make sure everyone is safe and healthy and has a great time on the Pinellas beaches, as we reopen the beaches and the businesses within the beach community,”  Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told the Board of County Commissioners Friday. “I’m not planning any time limit on how long we’re going to do this, but it will for sure run 10 days, into the following weekend, which is Mother’s Day weekend.”

The Board of County Commissioners agreed earlier this week to reopen the county’s 35 miles of beaches, which have been off-limits to visitors since mid-March. Nationally televised images of spring break visitors crowding Clearwater Beach as the Covid-19 pandemic escalated prompted the move to shut the beaches.

There were 14 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Pinellas County on March 19, when commissioners voted to close the beaches. As of Saturday morning there are 748 cases in Pinellas and 38 deaths. There’s been a plateau in new cases over the last few weeks, health officials told county commissioners earlier this week.

Gualtieri offered these details for his plan to control beach crowds.

• More than 250 deputy sheriff deputies on the Pinellas beaches, from Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs to Fort DeSoto at the southern tip of the county. The deputies will be present from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

• There are 213 beach access points from Sand Key to Pass-A-Grille Beach, and each one will be staffed by a uniformed deputy, on the sand side of the access points. As people arrive on the beach, they will be reminded by the deputies of the distancing requirements and the deputy will be responsible for ensuring distancing compliance in the sand areas.

• There will be additional foot patrols and 30 deputies in ATV’s patrolling the beaches.

• All the major parking lots up and down Gulf Boulevard will have deputies assigned to ensure there’s orderly traffic flow. If the parking lots become full, deputies will ensure there’s no improper parking on side streets.

• Clearwater Beach police officers will cover Clearwater Beach proper, around Pier 60, with Pinellas deputies available to help. Treasure Island and Indian Shores police will help patrol the beaches in their communities.

• There will be nine deputies assigned to Dunedin Causeway, and 11 deputies assigned to Honeymoon Island State Park, which will partially reopen Monday. Seven deputies will be dedicated to Gandy Beach.

• Marine unit deputies and officers will patrol the Gulf of Mexico and intercoastal waters, with special attention to Clearwater Pass and John’s Pass. Boaters have been anchoring along Clearwater Pass and using those beaches, Gualtieri said. There also will be regular helicopter patrols to gauge beach density and compliance.

• More than 1,000 signs will be posted to remind people of the social distancing requirements, as well as electronic signboards on the beach access bridges and along Gulf Boulevard.

“Anyone not following the rules will be asked to leave the beach,” Gualtieri said. “If we see certain areas of the beach that exceed safe distancing and capacity requirements, people will be asked to relocate to open areas.”

Gualtieri said he’s committed to making sure the plan works “100 percent.”

Beaches remain closed this weekend, through 7 a.m. Monday, May 4.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    PRISCILLA BAKER

    May 2, 2020at3:12 pm

    They will overcrowd and leave beaches spreading Convid19 to innocent people and we will have THOUSANDS of additional Covid19 DEATHS !

  2. Avatar

    Todd Scott

    May 2, 2020at10:56 pm

    I highly appreciate our Sheriff!! He supported us when the beaches needed to be closed, and supported us just as much when he sensed tension and made a recommendation to open with appropriate restrictions. This is a Man who senses the community he was elected to serve. I’ve never met him, but God Bless our level headed Sheriff.

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